The Thatcher Crisis Years

1980s politics blog from TV historian Tony McMahon

Charles Diana wedding

You’ve read the official accounts of how we all felt in 1981 about the royal wedding. Why, we were all giddy with anticipation, bunting at the ready and gagging for a street party. Of course, reality was different. More nuanced shall we say. A big chunk of the country found it hard to give a damn. We were in the middle of a grim recession; youth unemployment at stratospheric levels; a summer of riots had just completed and there was still the legacy of punk in the background. That said, the royals could still count on the majority of the country dutifully waving their Union Jacks and wishing the couple all the best.

We were still ten years away from the queen’s ‘Annus Horribilis’ in 1992 when the Queen announced in a speech marking her 40th year on the throne that – in so many words – 1992 stank. Windsor Castle caught fire. Princess Anne got divorced. Fergie was photographed having her toes sucked by a Texan. Prince Andrew separated from Fergie. And Diana’s intimate relationships with other men were emerging. But that was a decade in the future. In 1982, the Royal Family still looked relatively normal.

There was undoubtedly a hankering for a bit of colour at what was the tail end of a brutal recession. Whole areas of the country – especially the industrial heartlands – had been devastated. The choice you made was whether to indulge yourself in some majestic escapism or reject the establishment’s sedative. Most chose to escape from the drudgery for a day. Oxford Street held the longest street party ever – according to the retail association – and there was a 12,000 fireworks display centred on a portrait of the married couple.

Conducting the service, the Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie made some comments that were certainly prophetic – but not in the way he intended! He started by saying that indeed marriages are like fairy tales. And usually the beautiful couple live happily ever after. But that can surely never be enough, Runcie said. Marriage is not an anticlimactic conclusion to courtship. Oh no…

“This is not the Christian view. Our faith sees the wedding day not as the place of arrival but the place where the adventure really begins.”

Well – he wasn’t wrong there!

A respectful view of the Royal Wedding
A respectful view of the Royal Wedding
A humorous look at the Royal Wedding
A humorous look at the Royal Wedding
The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana was heralded as fairy tale event in 1981 but not everybody was buying the PR
The hard left did not approve!

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